Sunday, September 28, 2008

Holy crap! I am what I write

I received a lovely review of my book last night, and it made my millennium. Obviously I love the good reviews (I’m certain the carpenters will need to be called in to widen the doorways). I mean, who doesn’t? It’s that recognition that, regardless of what your job entails, someone felt you did an outstanding enough job to go the trouble to compliment you. This was special because it meant my reader wouldn't demand the bookstore return their money. How cool is that?

It got me to thinking about writing in general – particularly characters – and how pieces of us go into our characters. In my day job of editorial director, I’ve gotten to be a closet psychologist with respect to how closely our authors are actually parts of their books, and I’ve seen a real relationship between them and their main characters. Figures, since most of us write what we know. I guess that’s why the idea of meeting Steven King scares the crap out of me.

My character, Kim Donovan, is a renegade. If there’s a rule to break, she’s there with bells on. She’s not afraid to tell someone to go to hell if it’s over something she believes in, and she’ll fight tooth and nail to protect her beliefs. Admittedly, ol’ Kim didn’t fall far from the tree. I'm way too embarrassed to admit who Erik really is. That will require many mai tais. And probably money.

The reason the question popped into my head at all is because I was speaking at the Southern California Writer’s Conference this weekend, and I overheard a couple attendees ruminate about a well-pubbed author and what kind of man is he in real life. Having read his book and meeting the author last year, I could attest that he was one of the more mentally twisted people currently sucking air – as is his book
though he makes millions for himself and his publisher. If I want to know what kind of person the author is, I'm going to read their books.

For my next next party, I’m going to shun the usual gossip about the neighbors who walk naked in front of their living room windows and how Mrs. Overexposed has put on a few pounds. Instead, I’m going to play, “Literary Match Game” based on the assumption that the author and main character are soul mates. Given that, I can’t wait to get my hands on Dismas Hardy. I’ve had the hots for him for years. Sorry, Mrs. Lescroart, it’s over, I’m afraid.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Cell phone cellulitis

So what gives, Sprint, you used to make such great cell phones back in the day. But the last three phones I’ve had suck stale Twinkie cream. My last one sucked so much that I gave it to my secretary, the unreliable beagle, who promptly made lascivious calls to the police department and ordered frozen margaritas to go from the taco joint down the road. I gave it to her because the damn thing never worked!

You told me there wasn’t anything you could do for me, so against my better judgment, I got sucked into buying the LG Rumor. For the first four months it worked like a dream. My fingers flew over that big ol’ keyboard, and I could easily see the letters to ask my daughter to bring home a quart of milk and chocolate.

But, alas, our love affair soured. I’ve lost count of the times this agent of hell has shut off in mid-text and mid-phone call. Two, three, four times a day, I have to power up this demon after receiving land line calls from my mother wondering if I’d lost my cell phone. I wish.

Sprint, I’ve been a customer of yours for over ten years. Is my happiness nothing to you? I kept my old cell phone when others were getting the cool colored phones with all the bells and whistles because it never gave me a moment of worry. But all bets were off when you came out with a red phone. You found my weakness, and soon I was too cool for school. My love affair with that phone lasted four days. I brought it in to you, and one of your minions said, “Oh yeah…the red one. It has a defect.”

A defect? And yet you sold it to me? I traded in my ancient phone that never gave me a second of worry or problems for a defect? The replacement phone was ok, only it sounded like everyone was under water. But gawd, was it cute. A metallic pink. I couldn’t hear worth a damn, but I looked sooo cute holding it. The next one fell apart in my hands one day while I was talking to an agent.

I miss the good old days when your phones lasted. Back then you had to make a quality product because that was all you had. Nowadays you come out with a new phone every five minutes, and the buyers come running, so who cares about quality anymore?

“Oh, fierce green, it’s soooo cute!”
“Omigod, look at the videos it takes, and it’s PINK!”
This has a calendar that beeps at you, that one has special ring tones, oooo, and that one over there gets my email! AND NONE OF THEM FUCKING WORK.

I can’t leave you, Sprint, because I signed that pesky little contract. You know; the one where it says you can take my firstborn and half my savings if I dare leave you. So you’ve sold out for the quick, easy buck. Quality has become as obsolete as customer service. Maybe I’m just getting old, but I remember customer service quite fondly. It was a business’ calling card. Make the customer happy, and they’ll keep coming back. But you, Sprint, traded customer service for a contract, so I’m your customer and you don’t even have to smile and tell me to have a nice day. You can give me a crap piece of hardware in a pretty package and let me talk to India when I have a problem

I’d call you to complain, but my phone just shut off. Again.

Monday, September 22, 2008

When the carpet gets too full

My family is great at carpet stuffing. It beats confrontation, right? Mad at someone? Shove that anger under the carpet. Did one of the siblings say something hurtful? Swoosh the hurt under the carpet. Siblings lie about you? Zap that sense of betrayal under the carpet.

I’ve decided that over the years, my personal carpet is in dire need of a cleaning. It’s like the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. I realize I have no more room to stuff one more painful breech of right and wrong under the carpet without it claming what’s left of my sanity. I told a friend today that having shitty siblings was my price to pay for having fabulous parents – a karmic yin and yang.

So I’ve gotten out the vacuum cleaner and picked up the carpet. Lordy be, what a mess. The floor will soon be completely clean and I don’t ever have to allow it to get dirty again. It’s exhilarating. No more pretending that all is well, no more staying quiet to keep the peace. This will make holidays a lot easier, I think.

I have a similar type scene in my new manuscript, and it’s odd that I didn’t make the connection back when I wrote it. Guess Kim’s evolution is faster than mine. Then again, she’s got a thing for blood. As of now, so do I. It’s strangely liberating.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

American Express commercial

Am I the only idiot who has seen the Ellen DeGeneres/Amex "Have your people call my people" commercial a thousand times and didn’t get the association between Ellen seeing the Roman soldier on the movie lot and using her American Express card to save the day? As many years as I’ve owned an Amex card, I never realized there was a Roman soldier on it. Color me unobservant. I’d never make it as a doc…

Me: "I have no idea why the patient died, doctor."

Attending: "Well, doctor, the knife sticking out of the patient's back may have played a small role."

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Laguna Beach ER doc with DUIs loses medical license

When I first read the headline in this morning's O.C. Register, I figured some doc took his drunken bad self out of the ER after sewing some guy’s nose to his navel and got popped for drunk driving. But that doesn’t appear to be the case at all. Nowhere does the article give any indication that the doc’s drinking was a problem at work.

But what’s worse is that he surrendered his license because the medical board has the power to discipline doctors for unprofessional conduct, including dangerous use of alcohol. WTF? Geez, it was just a few short months ago that I read about all the substance abuse programs that the hospitals sponsor for practicing physicians. These are the guys who show up for surgery smelling like the bottom of a bottle of Jack Daniels or who raid the drug cabinets. They’ve been caught botching surgeries, maiming and killing patients and none of them lost their licenses.

So given the reality that the medical board allows drunks and drug abusers to keep their jobs – which does scare the crap out of me – how can they justify taking this guy’s license for something he did off the clock? I mean what, exactly, does the medical board define as “unprofessional conduct,” and how invasive is it?

And how does this infraction (albeit heinous and achingly stupid) equate losing one’s ability to practice medicine? It doesn’t add up. It’s like the bank taking away my house because I killed all the spiders I could find. The act doesn’t equal the response. If the guy was caught driving drunk twice, throw his ass in jail.

I’m not a fan of the alcoholic – especially if his hands are rummaging around my body parts. I expect nothing but their best. What they do when they’re off the clock is none of my business, provided it doesn’t interfere with their ability to take good care of me. Totally confused, and I hope someone can help me understand the medical board’s wisdom. For now, it eludes me.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


I have always held a fascination for docs because they can unload someone’s insides and put them back together again with (hopefully) no spare parts left over. How cool is that? I can’t put a Tonka toy together without a couple pieces hanging around.

In all the research I’ve done with docs of all flavors, I never asked how they feel about getting slopped on by their patients. As a mom, I’ve had my kids gorp on me any number of times, and it was always a battle between keeping it together or yaking with them. And these are my kids. If a stranger let loose with their bodily fluids, I know I’d lose it.

MDOD tell a story of sitting in a puddle of pee because the drunk patient mistook the chair for the gotty-go. That would have been my first yak of the shift. I’ve read stories about docs being immersed in blood, vomit, feces, brain matter, and it all makes my stomach turn flip flops. So how do docs maintain a professional attitude? I’m sure they’re more caught up in the emergency, but isn’t there a place in their brain that registers, “Ohmygod, this guy just belched blood all over me. YUCK.”

I’m sure I’ll need to know this information at some point in my writing career. And unlike my normal wont of experiential writing, I’m good with simply getting feedback. No amount of Reiki would get me through the night. Of this, I am certain.

Monday, September 15, 2008

When art mirrors real life

I just discovered that a major theme of my book centers on unconditional love. Odd that I would have “discovered” this. After all, who’s in charge of this insane asylum anyway? That’s the funny thing about writing fiction, oftentimes it rules our quill and moves us in different directions than we’d anticipated. How many times have I laid out the framework of a chapter only to get into the meat of writing and have my characters push me elsewhere? Sometimes I wonder if I’m channeling something going on in my life that is applicable to my characters, Kim and Erik. While they’re great surgeons, they are fatally human and make some dumbass decisions based on their, well, humanness.

I kept wondering exactly what Erik’s problem was with Kim since they were so perfect together before he went and screwed everything up. I realize how all schizoid this sounds since he is a figment of my imagination, but the sociology major in me likes to delve deeper into a character’s psyche and think about the why’s behind their actions. And that’s when the idea unconditional love came to me. What a revelation. It’s a hefty notion to love someone, warts and all. Especially in this day and age of disposable relationships. I’m not talking about hogging all the covers at night and not putting the cap on the toothpaste. Those are murderous offenses in my book.

I’m talking about the ability to overcome very big issues because the love we have for that special someone is far bigger than preconceived notions. It’s people of differing political parties, religions, or skin color to not be the Bickersons where food fights and flying dishes rule the household because they found a way to make it work. And this is what my characters knock up against in a big way with this second novel. The trick for me is to write about it convincingly.

Experiential writing is strong medicine because I’m forced to dig into my private reserve that sometimes has a “Do Not Touch” sign on it. This is the stuff that says, don’t go there, gurlfren’. It’s reeealy private and reeealy painful. But I need to tap into that in order to make my characters real. I discovered I knew about unconditional love. And boy, did it open my eyes in a most therapeutic way. So didn’t see that coming.

I learned that it’s ok to be pissed and hurt over my son’s actions or decisions and still love him anyway. I learned to give in to the fact that he beats his own drum, even if it is in dire need of a tuning. I learned to come to terms with his avoidance of our family as if we’re contagious. I learned to accept the dichotomy that, while there seems to exist this family disconnect, he’s never spoken harshly. He just floated away from us. I’ve learned to appreciate that my heart will ache and my brain will be angry. I learned that should he call me in the middle of the night in a still, small voice, asking if I still love him, that my answer will be an unhesitating, sobby “yes, of course. With all my heart and soul.”

How odd that my writing would force me to confront my private reserve and, ultimately help me understand more about me, my son, and my character. Should be one hell of a chapter.

Friday, September 12, 2008

In Memory

My local newspaper chose not to include a single 911 reference yesterday. Instead, their lead story was about a buxom blond who moved to our county. I’m crushed at their decision to exclude one of the most gut-wrenching experiences that ever happened to our country. Like many, I knew people who died in the Twin Towers and a few who fell in Afghanistan and Iraq. I, for one, will never forget because once we do, we’re bound to repeat the same mistakes.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

You’re entitled to your opinion as long as it agrees with mine

Politics brings out the best in everyone, don’t you think? Yeah, I’m joking. Politics brings out the ugly beast in so many people that I wonder where it’ll stop. Instead of discussing the issues that impact our country, we now have to constantly be on the defensive for daring to voice our opinion because some nut bar may decide he doesn’t like the way we think.

Case in point, my friend, Annie, was driving around yesterday and had some loon sneak up her tailpipe, making all sorts of wild and angry gestures – mostly with the middle finger. My friend wasn’t poking along twenty miles under the speed limit, so what gives? She pulled over to let the driver pass. Narrowly missing her bumper as he flew by, he flipped her off while screaming through his open window, “Fuck you and your lipstick- wearing candidate!”

She told me about it last night over margaritas and beer nuts. “Can you imagine somebody getting that upset because I have a different opinion? I never thought putting a bumper sticker on my car would end up almost getting my car rear-ended. What happened to the idea of having the right to our opinions?” It went out with bell-bottom pants, I told her. This is still America, right? she asked. Yes, yes, for now, I replied.

It’s strange. I mean, Annie was right. What happened to the idea that we are entitled to our opinions? I remember when I had a bumper sticker on my car years ago, and someone came along and keyed my door. My car was only a week old. I cried all afternoon while I peeled the sticker off. It also pissed me off. I was, in essence, being held hostage from expressing my opinion. The actions of these two incidents proved to me what is really going on; you’re entitled to your opinion as long as it agrees with mine.

I never got this particular memo, so the idea that I have to conform to others’ opinions or I risk getting my car keyed, or run off the road, or being roughed up makes me wonder at this brave new world of bully opinion. Civility went the way of the dinosaur, and we’re left with having to shut our mouths for fear of reprisals. We’re now a world where the media skews their news to favor their favorite candidate, and Hollywood is the new royalty on all political matters. I’ve actually had people roll their eyes and scoff because they asked me about my political beliefs. What the hell is going on here? Isn’t this how Russia stamped out independent thought?

I’m incredibly sad about this move toward having to force my opinions underground, and I can’t help but feel America is the worse for such intolerance. We could all use major Reiki hugs.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Writing has ruined me

Gone are the days when I could flop in front of TV and watch a show without my internal dialog blathering on about how cliché the characters are or how the show’s writer used the wrong point of view, and, oh how could they even think that plot is plausible? I’m ruined. Damaged goods.

#3 daughter ordered me to either shut my piehole when we watch Gossip Girl or leave the room. It’s achingly hard. Come ON…since when do high school juniors drink Manhattans in restaurants? And their dialog? Give me a break; teenagers do not talk like this. Not in my solar system anyway. And let’s not even go there with the wardrobe choices. If this manuscript had crossed my desk, I would have blasted it out of a canon with “Are you on drugs?” etched in red across the top of the page.

I decided to try watching a new show. I’m loath to do this because I fear change. I have my standby’s that I adore and don’t venture too far afield. So I give myself points for watching Raising the Bar. I withstood the cliché lawyers-out-to save-the-world-against-insane-judges for approximately ten minutes before hubby grabbed the red pen out of my hand as I began making critiques on the widescreen.

I think they ought to have a new reality show – how long can you stomach watching TV before gagging, tearing your eyes out with hot pokers, or killing someone. The losing producers would sit above a dunk tank of hot oil, and we could toss exploding bean bags at the target point. That would ensure some quality TV, I daresay.

Thanks to writing, my litmus test nowadays is based on points of view, character continuity between the dialog and plot, plausibility, story arc. I find myself muttering on a nightly basis, “I wouldn’t have written it that way.” I’ve considered not watching TV, but it’s a nice way to rest my eyes after a long day of reading. Besides, my daughter bought me the cutest pink and white muzzle.

In need of Reiki hugs. Send immediately.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Can't we all just get along?

It appears as though this squeezing of households – our son’s and ours – still has a ways to go. I’ve never wanted a separate laundry room more than I do right now. It’s in the garage, which can give way to my ultimate fear – spiders.

While changing out the clothes from the washer to the dryer, I heard what sounded like twilight in my backyard. Cricket song. Many crickets, in fact. WTF? It’s midday. And what is that smell? Ah geez, #1 son’s bearded dragons’ food source, in a large plastic container. Great. I have freaking dragon McDonalds in my garage. For crying out loud, what if they get out, I screech at #1 son. I hate, hate, hate crickets. Almost as much as spiders. Relax, mom, sez he, they’re contained. Contained? For how long? Does this boy not realize that crickets are wily spawns of the devil, and they can climb out of anything?

Ok, so maybe my fear of crickets is a bit disproportional, but I have good reason. One of those bastards jumped on me at a lovely garden party one balmy summer evening a number of years ago. I screamed as if I’d been murdered with a rusty butter knife and tossed my drink into the face of the host. The host freaked and slammed into his wife’s Bloody Mary, spilling it over her white Ann Klein dress. The chain reaction was minimized by the confines of the swimming pool, which, to this day, still amazes anyone who discusses what has become known as Lynn’s Dumbass Stunt.

This won’t work, I tell #1 son. Those smelly little mud bugs have to go into the backyard. No, no, he protests, they’ll die if they’re outside. WHAT? That’s where they freaking live! I scream

Turns out that tolerance is the mother of malevolence, and I am destined to be held captive in its steely vise until hell freezes over. I will allow the damned crickets to invade my garage. But I swear on all that’s holy, that if I find one spindly legged creature in my Victoria Secrets, they and #1 son will take up residence under a freeway underpass.

Good god. I don’t need to write fiction because no one would believe my real life.

Size - it's all in my head

I remember when I reached the docks of the Amazon River in Iquitos, Peru, I bent over and laughed at the aged slats of faded blue wood, spit, and glue that would be our home and transportation for the next 17 days and wondered how for the love of all that’s holy it would hold our luggage, food, medical supplies, and, of course, us. Somehow our floating rent-a-wreck proved to be a hearty old broad, and it all worked out. No one drowned, though I almost went flying overboard over the sight of a spider the size of a large man’s hand.

I wondered the same thing when we arrived at the lodge 120 miles upriver, and I spied the tiny hut that stood five feet above ground. Where I would lay my weary bones, and how on earth can this fit one person, let alone two? But, somehow, we made it work.

These impressions have never been an issue with my home. It’s a big thing with lots of room for three kids, hubby, me, the dog and cockatoo. When the kids grew up, two moved out. One to his own place, the other to the military. Wow, the house felt positively HUGE. Our voices echoed against the nekkid walls and empty rooms. For the first time, I tried my hand decorating and turned one kid’s room into the guest room I’d always dreamed of. Problem was, we never had any guests.

Then #2 son came home from the military with a beagle, who is now my unreliable secretary. Ok, so now we have two dogs and a cockatoo. We quickly adjusted to the extra body because the body was never here due the long work hours. Still, the house felt a wee bit smaller.

Overnight my house turned into a teepee whose seams are bursting under the weight of bodies. #1 son moved back in. With his furniture. And his bearded dragons. Three. Of. Them. Two are babies. Yeegods, where is all this stuff going to fit, and can my constitution withstand the idea that I share the same mailing address with dragons?

Boxes, a tall lamp, paintings, discarded clothing late for Goodwill now litter the upstairs hallway, and I’ve had to take a crash course in contortionism in order to leap, bend, and twist my way into my office. When did my house get so small? I keep thinking I’m going to adjust to this. After all, I mastered the Amazon, I can certainly master this. But I also knew the Amazon was temporary. How temporary is this arrangement? #1 son wants to finish school while working, so he’s saving his rent money. #2 son is getting back on his financial feet after the military. I’m good with all this, but where was it written that I was a “love me, love my dragons” kinda gal?

Last night was filled with the beagle and my dog playing – which means that every couch cushion was tossed about the floor with reckless abandon. This set off the cockatoo, who screeched and bellyached about not being included in the fun. This freaked out the dragons, who clung to their branches and made like they were going to eat my hand. I don’t live in a home anymore, I live in a freaking insane asylum. I pity anyone coming to our door. I pity me for living here.

#3 daughter has the right idea; she just got accepted into a sports medicine program in London. I may join her.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

US Postal Service at its best

I was all set to write about the sudden decrease in the size of my house, but, as a passionate dog lover – including my troublesome secretary, the unreliable beagle – I had to share. Checking Snopes for its truthfulness made it even sweeter:


Our 14 year old dog, Abbey, died last month. The day after she died, my 4 year old daughter Meredith was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey. She asked if we could write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would recognize her. I told her that I thought we could so she dictated these words:

Dear God,
Will you please take care of my dog? She died yesterday and is with you in heaven. I miss her very much. I am happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick.

I hope you will play with her. She likes to play with balls and to swim. I am sending a picture of her so when you see her You will know that she is my dog. I really miss her.

Love, Meredith

We put the letter in an envelope with a picture of Abbey and Meredith and addressed it to God/Heaven. We put our return address on it. Then Meredith pasted several stamps on the front of the envelope because she said it would take lots of stamps to get the letter all the way to heaven. That afternoon she dropped it into the letter box at the post office. A few days later, she asked if God had gotten the letter yet. I told her that I thought He had.

Yesterday, there was a package wrapped in gold paper on our front porch addressed, 'To Meredith' in an unfamiliar hand. Meredith opened it. Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers called, 'When a Pet Dies.' Taped to the inside front cover was the letter we had written to God in its opened envelope. On the opposite page was the picture of Abbey & Meredith and this note:

Dear Meredith,

Abbey arrived safely in heaven. Having the picture was a big help. I recognized Abbey right away.

Abbey isn't sick anymore. Her spirit is here with me just like it stays in your heart. Abbey loved being your dog. Since we don't need our bodies in heaven, I don't have any pockets to keep your picture in, so I am sending it back to you in this little book for you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by.

Thank you for the beautiful letter and thank your mother for helping you write it and sending it to me. What a wonderful mother you have. I picked her especially for you.

I send my blessings every day and remember that I love you very much.

By the way, I'm easy to find, I am wherever there is love.



Have to ‘scuse me right now – I need to go hug my dogs.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Brain Betrayal

I had the most bizarre dream last night. I mean really bizarre. I dreamed that someone who has been like a mentor to me was a sex therapist. On the surface of it, this seems pretty innocuous, except this guy is one of the most above-board, honest, decent, ethical, spiritual people I know. But there he was, coming into his office and whipping off his undies for his, uh, client.

I don’t even want to know my sub-conscious put ME into the office as well since I was simply the observer – which makes my “ew” factor blow off the Richter scales. For godsakes, I so don’t want to imagine this man with his undies off. I don’t even want to imagine that he owns undies. And what kind of a sick puppy am I to even dream this bilge? Now I’m just grossing myself out, and it’s troubling because I have to see him this afternoon.

I’ve never encountered this before and have considered that I must have blown a few synapses during the night because I can’t get the image (or my grossed-out-ness) out of my head. Hubby blames it on the “creative mind.” Creative schmeative, I remember when he told me his dream where he took Phyllis Diller to dinner, and they ate two dozen oysters in her hot tub before she got out and did the mambo wearing nothing but oversized banana leaves. This from a finance guy.

What scares me is that a vivid dream has altered my entire view of my friend, and I’m looking forward to seeing him this afternoon about as much as I would a root canal with no drugs. I’m really quite put out with my subconscious mind right now because while I consider myself to be a pretty good writer, my acting skills rank along those of the entire new cast of 90210.

I could laugh it off and tell him, but I’m still too squidged out to think my brain would betray me in such a cruel manner. Besides, I’d die if he thought I have a latent onset of the warmies for him. I so don’t, and I get the squidgies all over again just thinking about it. Argh, there I go again…thinking.

Dear lord, why couldn’t I have dreamed about Antonio Banderas?

I’m in serious need of Reiki hugs. Lots. Of. Them.